Singing Saltwater Country

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At twenty John Bradley was sent to teach Aboriginal children in a school at the remote community of Borroloola, on the Gulf of Carpentaria in far north Australia. A journey began which has taken him into the heart of the Dreaming of the Yanyuwa people.

But it is the teacher who is educated by the Yanyuwa Elders and their families. Over three decades he learns their language and their country, becoming intimately drawn into other ways of being, both practical and spiritual. With passion and pride they teach him their songlines, relating what they know and value - ancestors, kin, allegiances; places, plants, animals; seasons, ceremonies, stories---and the spirit that sustains all.

As we follow John Bradley on his journey, we begin to see that the songlines are keys to the authority and continuity held by Aboriginal law. We begin to understand why, when country can no longer be sung, the Yanyuwa feel it so deeply. And what such loss means to us all.

John Bradley has written Singing Saltwater Country in collaboration with Yanyuwa Elders. It reveals the sacred knowledge of the songlines at a time when Yanyuwa culture is under enormous threat. It is also a time when westerners need to become familiar with Indigenous understandings of country if we are all to survive in the fragile ecosystems of this land.

This is simply the best book written to explain songlines. It is essential for anyone wanting to understand the relationship Aborigines have with the land.

— Sydney Morning Herald

About John Bradley

John Bradley also worked with the Yanyuwa as anthropologist on their land claims and sacred sites. He is now deputy director of the Centre for Australian Indigenous Studies at Monash University.

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Cite this page

Korff, J 2018, Singing Saltwater Country, <>, retrieved 20 April 2024

Creative Spirits is a starting point for everyone to learn about Aboriginal culture. Please use primary sources for academic work.

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